HIV Home Testing Options
About 1 in every 7 people with HIV do not know they have it. If someone has HIV, it is very important to start medication therapy. It is also important to prevent spread to others.1
If you are concerned about your HIV status, consider getting tested. Knowledge is power. Knowing your status will help you make informed healthcare decisions for yourself and others.1
You can ask your doctor about getting tested in a lab, or you can test yourself at home.
What are my HIV home test options?
As of June 2023, the only over-the-counter HIV test approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test. Over-the-counter means you can buy it without a prescription at a pharmacy. You do not need a doctor's order for an at-home HIV test.1-3
HIV home test options also include mail-in tests. This lets you collect a sample at home and mail it to a lab that will test it. Mail-in tests are not approved by the FDA. But the labs that test the samples must verify that the tests are accurate.3
Mail-in HIV tests can be ordered by your doctor, but they cannot be picked up at a pharmacy.3
How does an at-home HIV test work?
The OraQuick test uses a test stick to collect fluid from your mouth. A device in the stick checks for antibodies to HIV types 1 and 2 in the collected fluid. Antibodies are something your body makes in response to specific infections.2
You can use the test anywhere that you find to be private. Results will be ready in 20 minutes.2
Where can I find an at-home HIV test?
You can find and buy an at-home HIV test online or at a drug store or pharmacy. The GetTested website can help you find a test in your area.3
How accurate and reliable is an at-home HIV test?
The OraQuick rapid test is considered an accurate and reliable HIV home test option. But no test is perfect. For every 5,000 times it is used, 1 result will show as positive when the person does not have HIV. This is called a false positive.1
Likewise, for every 12 positive results in people with HIV, it will give at least 1 false negative result. This means the result will read as negative when the person does have HIV.1
If you get a positive result, follow up with your doctor to get a lab test. And if you get a negative result but think you may have been exposed to HIV, talk to your doctor.1
Can I rely on at-home HIV tests?
For the most reliable results, a person needs to have been infected for at least 3 months before testing themselves with the OraQuick test.1,2
How much does an at-home HIV test cost?
Most stores sell the OraQuick test for between 40 and 45 dollars. Costs vary, but you can call stores to compare prices. Talk to your health insurance company to learn if an at-home HIV test is covered.
What are the trends in at-home HIV testing?
While the OraQuick test has been approved since 2012, the COVID-19 pandemic popularized testing at home. A 2021 study found that 34 percent of people who participated in a home-testing HIV program between 2020 and 2021 said that the pandemic had reduced lab-based testing in their area.4
A 2018 study found that most people who took an at-home HIV test used it correctly. And most people preferred the oral test to mail-in, blood-based tests.5
Global trends for at-home HIV testing call for more digital support. This includes linking text messaging, social media, and mobile apps to the tests. Support may include:6
- Directions on correct use
- How to interpret results
- Connecting people with positive results to nurses, doctors, or clinics
Studies show that digital support will increase use of at-home HIV tests and connect users with HIV treatment. It will also help to reach more people at risk of HIV who have never used an at-home test.6
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